Apple's new, cheaper HomePod is a tough smart speaker to nail down. On the one hand, the HomePod Mini boasts impressive audio quality for its size. The HomePod Mini also has a Thread radio that lets it act as a smart home hub, but for now, there are only a few Thread-enabled smart devices available to control. And while Apple's new Intercom feature makes for an easy way to broadcast messages to household members, it doesn't allow for two-way calling. Now, if you're a dedicated Apple user and you've been waiting for a more affordable Siri-powered smart speaker than the $300 HomePod, the $99 HomePod Mini is your best--and only--bet.
Reolink's Argus cameras have ably filled the need for an essentials-only wireless security camera. The Argus 2E is the latest in the family, but where it sits in the lineage is a little confusing. Given its name, you'd be forgiven for thinking it's an update on the Argus 2, but that model evolved into the completely redesigned Argus 3, The 2E actually replaces the Argus Pro, which, contrary to its name was not a premium version of the Argus, and even lacked a few of the main model's features. It makes sense, then, that the 2E doesn't sport the new design of the Argus 3 but looks like a slightly modified version of the Argus Pro. Most of the specs are the same, too: 1080p video, two-way audio, and passive infrared motion detection. And like the Argus Pro, the 2E is powered by a 5200mAh rechargeable battery that can be continually charged with an optional solar panel ($25) should you deploy this indoor/outdoor camera outside.
Robot vacuums have been fairly well commoditized, but there seems to be plenty of room for innovating mopping robots. Samsung's Jetbot Mop has one of the more unique designs we've seen. The 15-inch-wide robot uses two disc-shaped water reservoirs, called the "water supply kit," affixed with mopping pads to propel it across the floor as they scrub. And while most robot mops perform that single act, the Jetbot doubles as a handheld cleaner. Easy to operate and affordably priced, it's a compelling alternative to more sophisticated robot mops such as iRobot's Braava Jet m6.
Welcome back to the high end, AMD. After years of being mired in second place, far behind the top GeForce offerings, the $580 Radeon RX 6800 and $650 Radeon RX 6800 XT deliver blistering performance on a par with--or better than--than Nvidia's flagship gaming graphics cards in everything but ray tracing, as we covered in our AMD Radeon RX 6800-series review. You need a pixel-packed monitor to push these graphics cards to their limits, however (though AMD's RDNA 2 architecture scales down to 1080p much better than rival Nvidia GPUs). For most people, that means a 4K or 1440p display. But there's another option: 3440x1440 ultrawide monitors split the performance difference between a 4k and 1440p display in terms of raw pixel count, and provide a level of immersion you just can't achieve on a standard rectangular display. Better yet, AMD's latest graphics cards come stuffed with a massive 16GB of onboard memory that can handle any high-resolution textures your games can throw at it, even under strenuous ultrawide conditions.
Need to remind the family to take out the garbage, pick up a prescription at the drugstore, or perform some other household duty? Just leave a digital sticky note on your Google smart display. First announced back at CES in January, the Family Notes feature is rolling out to Google smart displays starting today, along with an update to the Family Bell feature, interactive stories, and "find my family" functionality. First up, you'll soon be able to ask Google Assistant to leave a sticky note on your Google Nest Hub, Google Nest Hub Max, or another Google Assistant-enabled display. Just ask, "Hey Google, leave a family note that says pick up the dry cleaning," and Google Assistant will leave a digital sticky note in the top-right corner of the screen that reads, "Pick up the dry cleaning," along with a timestamp and the name of the person who left the note.
With the debut of the Radeon RX 6800 and RX 6800 XT, AMD is clearly on a roll. Mere weeks ago, the company's Ryzen 5000 processors seized the unquestionable performance lead from Intel--yes, even in games--for the first time in over a decade. On Wednesday, it's the graphics division's turn to shine with these two Radeon RX 6000-series "Big Navi" graphics cards powered by AMD's new RDNA 2 architecture. Rival Nvidia has largely been competing against itself in the high-end GPU space for several years now. AMD's Vega offerings showed up disappointingly late and disappointingly underpowered in 2017, followed by (awesome) first-gen RDNA cards that sadly topped out with the midrange Radeon RX 5700 XT in 2019.
I've long advocated for protecting your hearing by limiting the levels you listen to. Long-term exposure to high sound pressure levels leads to noise-induced hearing loss (NIHL), which can greatly reduce your sensitivity to high frequencies and midrange frequencies that are fundamental to understanding speech. Another potential symptom is the constant annoyance of tinnitus (aka ringing in the ears), which can become permanent--and there's no cure. Puro Sound Labs addressed this concern with its PuroQuiet headphone, reviewed here, which is designed for children and limits its output level to protect them from NIHL. Now, the company has introduced an adult version of the same idea.
Like chocolate-covered peanut butter or eggs served with bacon, an Amazon Echo Dot with a built-in clock turns out to be a splendid combination. The latest Echo Dot with Clock doesn't veer far from the original's winning formula, serving up the same basic LED display baked into an Alexa-powered smart speaker. The only real difference this time around, aside from slightly improved audio, is a revamped spherical design that's now shared by the standard Echo Dot and the flagship Echo model. While the new Echo Dot with Clock does represent a clear stylistic departure from the original, there's no real reason to rush out and replace an existing one. Available in "glacier white" and "twilight blue" flavors, the new Echo Dot with Clock got the same spherical makeover that the standard 4th-gen Echo Dot did. Measuring 3.5 inches tall and 3.9 inches wide, the Echo Dot with Clock is nearly two inches taller than its predecessor, although it's roughly the same width.
The latest version of the Iris, a smart mood lamp from Signify-owned Philips Hue, cannily improves on the elegant original, upping its brightness, improving its translucent light diffuser and spiffing up the power cable, while adding a Bluetooth radio in the bargain. Capable of working both with or without a hub, the $100 Iris can cast a soothing shaft of color or tunable white light on a nearby wall, while its translucent diffuser glows inside the lamp's clear shell. A cinch to set up and compatible with Alexa, Google Assistant, and (if used with a hub) HomeKit, the Iris makes for an easy and inexpensive way to warm up a room. While the Iris has a list price of $100 (or $99.99 if you want to get technical about it), the recently released lamp is only now finding its way into retail channels, so don't be surprised if you see inflated prices from third-party resellers. While it's rated for up to 570 lumens, or twice as bright as its predecessor, the Iris isn't really meant to light a room or illuminate a workspace.
Polk Audio manages to tease some relatively impressive virtual 3D audio out of its 2.1-channel MagniFi soundbar, which makes the speaker's subpar bass response all the more disappointing. Equipped with built-in Chromecast and Google Assistant support, the MagniFi 2 is easy to set up, and Polk Audio's custom digital sound processing delivers subtle surround and height effects without undue harshness. The $499 MagniFi 2 also comes with three HDMI inputs, a pleasant surprise for a soundbar in this price range. But while it's unquestionably an upgrade over standard TV speakers, the MagniFi 2's otherwise crisp audio is undermined by muddy bass from the wireless subwoofer, robbing the sound of punchiness. Polk Audio has three lines of soundbars.